God tells me to copy and paste, so you can't stop me. -- Kate

"You know, I could run for governor, but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business ..." -- G.W. Bush

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. -- Galileo Galilei

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Picture test. This is Mt St Helens being attacked by a fly.

You can check out a current shot of Mt St Helens by clicking on the link to the right.
This is one of the reasons why Ricky “It Takes a Family” Santorum is wrong. He’s got some goofy idea that a mom and dad automatically make a perfect family and are best for the child. He seems to forget that kids are more likely to be abused by family and friends.

French sex case verdict imminent
ANGERS, France (AP) -- A court Wednesday was to deliver its verdict in a vast pedophilia trial that scandalized the nation after 65 defendants -- including relatives and acquaintances of some of the victims -- were charged with molesting, raping and prostituting infants and young children in western France.

Prosecutors said 45 children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years were raped and abused by their parents, grandparents or acquaintances in a working-class neighborhood of Angers from 1999 to 2002 -- at times in exchange for small amounts of money, food, alcohol or cigarettes.
And no, just because this happened in France doesn’t mean it can’t happen here. Parents are human beings and can have, and often do have, the same kind of mental dyfunctins that unmarried childless people can have. By the way, perverts and unbalanced people want to have kids too.

I once worked with a woman who had one child just "to prove" that she could; it proved she was a woman. Like a trip to the gynecologist couldn't have done that faster and cheaper. She also told the child that when she turned 18 that she had to be out of the house. Mom had done her "job" and wanted the house back. This is the mom talking, her words were "prove" and "job." Don't get me wrong, I'm not using this woman as an example of pervert or unbalanced but she sure had a child for, what seems to me, to be wrong reasons.

Anyways, if I’m supposed to help pay for other people’s kids, like Santorum says, then I should have a say in how things work, why should he be the only to decide those things. I think no one should be permitted to have kids until they go to classes and take tests to prove they are mentally, physically and financially fit enough to have kids. Reversable vasectomies should do the trick. They get to stop shooting blanks when they're in a stable relationship and go to classes and prove all that stuff.

I know that parents wouldn't like having to take their young boys in for an operation; probably would have to be done by the age of 10 or 11. The parents have to understand that it's for the good of the country, just like Santorum said on The Daily Show. If he can say that a federally mandated one man, one woman marriage is good for the country then I can say that federally mandated vasectomies all around are good for the country too.

Then parents will have to continue their federally mandated-no child left behind job by teaching their children in the proper federally mandated way. If the parents don’t act as proper federally mandated role models then they lose the kid. If they don’t teach the kid to respect other people, particularly no child left behind teachers, then they lose their kids. The parent breaks the law, they lose the kid. They don’t pay for their kid’s schooling, they lose the kid. The parent teaches the kid that the government owes them, they lose the kid. You get the non-federally mandated idea.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart

Oh! My! God! I love this guy!
JIM SINEGAL, the chief executive of Costco Wholesale, the nation's fifth-largest retailer, had all the enthusiasm of an 8-year-old in a candy store as he tore open the container of one of his favorite new products: granola snack mix. "You got to try this; it's delicious," he said. "And just $9.99 for 38 ounces."
. . .

He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business."
. . .

Mr. Sinegal, whose father was a coal miner and steelworker, gave a simple explanation. "On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now."

I didn’t think anyone built a business to stay in business anymore unless it’s a local neighborhood business. It seems that some business owners are in it to make max profits as they drive the business into the ground. They and the shareholders make bundles of bucks and screw everyone else in the process.

I see so many businesses these days and wonder what happened to the concept of “ongoing concern?” Every business class I’ve been in touts the idea of a business that lasts longer than the person or people who started the business. The business is supposed to take on a life of its own and live as long as possible. There’s been a few businesses lately that seem to have been born with defects or cancer and have no chance to grow up. And the their mamas and papas are fine with it as long as they come out a whole lot richer in the end.
. . .

IF shareholders mind Mr. Sinegal's philosophy, it is not obvious: Costco's stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while Wal-Mart's has slipped 5 percent. Costco shares sell for almost 23 times expected earnings; at Wal-Mart the multiple is about 19.Mr. Dreher said Costco's share price was so high because so many people love the company. "It's a cult stock," he said.

Emme Kozloff, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, faulted Mr. Sinegal as being too generous to employees, noting that when analysts complained that Costco's workers were paying just 4 percent toward their health costs, he raised that percentage only to 8 percent, when the retail average is 25 percent.
I need to find a Costco. I want to support this business.
. . .

Despite Costco's impressive record, Mr. Sinegal's salary is just $350,000, although he also received a $200,000 bonus last year. That puts him at less than 10 percent of many other chief executives, though Costco ranks 29th in revenue among all American companies.

"I've been very well rewarded," said Mr. Sinegal, who is worth more than $150 million thanks to his Costco stock holdings. "I just think that if you're going to try to run an organization that's very cost-conscious, then you can't have those disparities. Having an individual who is making 100 or 200 or 300 times more than the average person working on the floor is wrong."
. . .

"Jim has done a very good job in balancing the interests of the shareholders, the employees, the customers and the managers," said Mr. Price, now 89 and retired. "Most companies tilt too much one way or the other."

Mr. Sinegal, who is 69 but looks a decade younger, also delights in not tilting Costco too far into cheap merchandise, even at his warehouse stores. He loves the idea of the "treasure hunt" - occasional, temporary specials on exotic cheeses, Coach bags, plasma screen televisions, Waterford crystal, French wine and $5,000 necklaces - scattered among staples like toilet paper by the case and institutional-size jars of mayonnaise.

The treasure hunts, Mr. Sinegal says, create a sense of excitement and customer loyalty.

This knack for seeing things in a new way also explains Costco's approach to retaining employees as well as shoppers. Besides paying considerably more than competitors, for example, Costco contributes generously to its workers' 401(k) plans, starting with 3 percent of salary the second year and rising to 9 percent after 25 years.

ITS insurance plans absorb most dental expenses, and part-time workers are eligible for health insurance after just six months on the job, compared with two years at Wal-Mart. Eighty-five percent of Costco's workers have health insurance, compared with less than half at Wal-Mart and Target.

Costco also has not shut out unions, as some of its rivals have. The Teamsters union, for example, represents 14,000 of Costco's 113,000 employees. "They gave us the best agreement of any retailer in the country," said Rome Aloise, the union's chief negotiator with Costco. The contract guarantees employees at least 25 hours of work a week, he said, and requires that at least half of a store's workers be full time.

Workers seem enthusiastic. Beth Wagner, 36, used to manage a Rite Aid drugstore, where she made $24,000 a year and paid nearly $4,000 a year for health coverage. She quit five years ago to work at Costco, taking a cut in pay. She started at $10.50 an hour - $22,000 a year - but now makes $18 an hour as a receiving clerk. With annual bonuses, her income is about $40,000.

"I want to retire here," she said. "I love it here."
I want to shop there. A business that wants to stay in business is a place I can support.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The name of the web site speaks for itself.
Looks like fun, if you're a squirrel.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Obesity Tougher On Men

WEDNESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Adding a new spin to the battle of the sexes, researchers say severely obese women outperform their male counterparts when it comes to both physical fitness and their ability to properly digest carbohydrates.

"Society is putting much more calories in food today than 50 years ago, and people are getting more and more overweight. But we found that the women were better able to handle the obesity than the men," said study co-author Dr. Emile F. L. Dubois, from the department of pulmonary diseases at the Hospital Reinier de Graaf Groep in Delft-Voorburg, The Netherlands.

The study found extremely obese women displaying better endurance and respiratory capacity during exercise than similarly heavy men.

The men also fared worse than women in terms of a condition called "carbohydrate intolerance." Unable to utilize carbs as the high-energy fuel source they are meant to be, people with this condition typically store unprocessed, excess carbohydrates as body fat.

Taken together, this lack of fitness and inability to handle carbs places severely obese men at a higher risk than equally sized women for developing "metabolic syndrome," a precursor to diabetes and heart disease, the researchers said.

. . .

Dubois suggested a range of potential explanations, including the possibility that women are naturally more efficient at energy storage due to the role they play as a food source for newborns. Another theory is that hormones produced by fat tissue -- including estrogen -- might partially explain gender differences. Men could be more negatively affected than women by the release of these hormones, Dubois speculated.

But the most promising explanation might be linked to the distribution of fat around the body. Men, he noted, tend to store it in the upper parts of their bodies and directly inside muscle tissue, whereas women store fat in the lower body area. This may lead to a relatively greater diminishment in lung capacity among men, because abdominal muscles are compressed under the weight of stored fat.

. . .

"We've known for years that women tolerate obesity better than men, and our guess is that it's hormone-mediated," said Fujioka. "It's mainly because men store fat centrally around the organs and in the abdominal area, while women store it in their hips and thighs. And essentially when you increase the fat in the abdominal area, insulin levels have to rise, and you increase pressure on the abdominal cavity. So I'd have to say they're right. It'll be harder to intake oxygen and breathe."

. . .
And it’s my guess that overweight women still do most of the work around the house. They do the cooking and cleaning and the wash and the food shopping. In and out of the house, up and down steps, carrying laundry and groceries. Overweight women may not get enough exercise but they probably get more exercise than overweight men. Seems like that should make a difference too.

The researchers also don’t seem to have looked to see if the women were already doing anything different than the men. The study was done on a group of men and women getting ready to undergo bariatric surgery to help them lose weight. Is it possible that the women were trying to exercise more in anticipation of the surgery?

The world may never know, or caare for that matter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I don't know what's going on here. I keep getting this huge space between the date and the post. Eeeeeeee! How do I make it stop?
Study Great Ideas, but Teach to the Test

By MICHAEL WINERIP---Published: July 13, 2005

BECKY KARNES, a high school English teacher, recently completed a graduate-level writing course that she loved at Grand Valley State University.

"The course taught us better ways to teach writing to kids," said Ms. Karnes, a 16-year veteran who is finishing up her master's degree. "It showed you ways to stretch kids' minds. I learned so much, I had my eyes opened about how to teach writing."

. . .

"We learned how to develop good writing from the inside, starting with calling the child's voice out," said Ms. Karnes, who got an A in the university course. "One of the major points was, good writing is good thinking. That's why writing formulas don't work. Formulas don't let kids think; they kill a lot of creativity in writing."

And so, when Ms. Karnes returns to Allendale High School to teach English this fall, she will use the new writing techniques she learned and abandon the standard five-paragraph essay formula. Right?

"Oh, no," said Ms. Karnes. "There's no time to do creative writing and develop authentic voice. That would take weeks and weeks. There are three essays on the state test and we start prepping right at the start of the year. We have to teach to the state test" (the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, known as MEAP).

"MEAP is not what writing is about, but it's what testing is about," Ms. Karnes said. "And we know if we teach them the five-paragraph essay formula, they'll pass that test. There's a lot of pressure to do well on MEAP. It makes the district seem good, helps real estate values."
I didn’t know that going to school was primarily to help prop up real estate vaules.
In Michigan, there is added pressure. If students pass the state tests, they receive $2,500 college scholarships, and in Ms. Karnes's middle-class district, families need that money. "I can't see myself fighting against MEAP," she said. "It would hurt my students too much. It's a dilemma. It may not be the best writing, but it gets them the money."

In this fashion, the five-paragraph essay has become the law of the land: introductory paragraph; three supporting paragraphs, each with its own topic sentence as well as three supporting ideas; and summary paragraph.

. . .

The National Council of Teachers of English has warned that standardized state tests mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law, as well as the College Board's new SAT writing sample, are actually hurting the teaching of writing in this country. For their part, the makers of these tests emphasize that they don't mandate a writing formula, and they, too, say it would be a mistake if schools taught only by the formula.

. . .

"If you give kids the formula to write an essay, you're taking away the very thinking that a writer engages in," she said. "Kids are less apt to develop a writer's thinking skills." And it is spreading downward. In preparation for the fourth-grade state writing test, she said, she sees third-grade teachers pressed to use the five-paragraph formula. A teacher in Dr. Patterson's class described her frustration over a practice essay test in her district asking third graders to "defend or refute from a patriotic standpoint" whether a friend should go to a Memorial Day parade. "For 9-year-olds?" said Dr. Patterson. "Defend or refute?"

. . .

RECENTLY, Kristen Covelle, 24, has been going on interviews for English teaching jobs. She mentions exciting things she's learned from Dr. Patterson. "The interview will be going great," Ms. Covelle said, "and then MEAP will come up. They want to know will I teach to the test, that's what they're looking for. They asked how I feel about using "I" in writing. Would there ever be a case when "I" is appropriate in an essay. I knew the answer they want - you're not supposed to use it. But I couldn't say that. I said there could be times, you just can't close the door. They didn't say anything but it was definitely the low point of the interview."

Ms. Karnes isn't totally against the formula. "For kids struggling, if you can give them a formula and they fill in the blanks, some will pass the MEAP test who wouldn't otherwise," she said. "But it turns into a prison. It stops you from finding a kid's potential."

She loves the last month of school, when state tests are over, she said. Last spring she did lessons on poetry and writing short stories. "I found interests and talents in those kids I didn't know were there," she said. "It would have been nice to have a whole year to build on those things."

E-mail: edmike@nytimes.com

I fought the formula and the formula won.

Ok, the teacher sort of won and lost and I sort of lost but kept my voice. My last English teacher was big on the formula and I don’t think she even realized it. She would have us write then we would have to rewrite it the way she would have written the paper. Generally the way she wanted it written was by the formula. Write a paragraph on how your topics work together then write about your first topic then back it up with a few of examples then move on to the next topic and back that up with a few examples then move on, end with a summary pulling your topics together. The more pages she wanted the topics and examples you needed.

Initial summary + {number of topics + (number of topics x 3)} + final summary = completed paper.

So, if she wanted you to write 5 pages, you knew that one page could be filled with the initial summary and the final summary (not on the same page). That left 4 pages to fill. Figure one topic and three examples per page. Three examples were the minimum if you wanted credit for being thorough. Then you knew you needed four topics and twelve examples total. If you couldn’t come up with four related topics you could do three but then you would need to pad out your nine examples or add an example to each topic. Padding out the essay was about the only way you could get away with getting your own way of writing into the paper. Of course, if she didn’t think your examples were strong enough then out they went.

She didn’t want the student’s voice. Mainly she wanted the formula in her voice. I got a B since I wouldn’t make the changes that she would have made.

I used to hate English class and particularly writing. The one thing in English class that I liked everyone else hated; diagramming sentences. That was like math to me and I could do it. Too much of English seemed like there were no real rules. I know, there are a million rules but there are about the same number of exceptions to those rules.

At least when I was in school, for some reason teachers seemed to think that their students could read minds. “In your book report, tell me what the story was about not what the story is.” Huh? To me, what the story is is what the story was about. Then they would tell you to write the report in the formula form.

For the longest time I just didn’t understand what writing with your own voice meant. I didn’t understand why readers would insist on there being meaning behind everything a particular author wrote. Why did author so-and-so have to be writing about society and its dark under belly? And foreshadowing really got on my nerves. Why couldn’t the story just be a story, a nice diversion.

It wasn’t till I was in my thirties that I had two teachers who could explain it. I was in the Humanities Enrichment Program, HEP. It made me hep to English and History and writing. The class had two teachers and taught two subjects at the same time, in my case English and History. These were two subjects that used to make me cringe. I was almost kicked out of high school when I was doing badly in History. I was just average in English. My stomach would turn when it was time for a student-teacher conference. Most of the time I didn’t understand what the teacher wanted from me and they couldn’t explain anything worth a damn.

The HEP class changed that. I really enjoyed having Cindy and Doug teach, I had never looked forward to going to an English or History class in my life. Unfortunately, after Cindy and Doug, it was back to reality and the formual teacher I described above. It’s kind of sad that they push formula writing when you’re in college then complain when the students can’t think.

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